WHEN THE SUN finally sets on this winter and, believe it or not, it will, there will be no way of sugarcoating its severity. When you get dumped on to the tune of more than 70 inches of snow in February alone, not to mention enduring a January ice storm and cold spell of actual 20 to 30 below readings on the thermometer for days on end, you have had a severe winter.

Now, though, winter is finally beginning to bend a little, with even a few cracks looking like an imminent break starting to show up. Before you know it, spring will really be here.

That said, there probably will be some real winter weather left in the cards for us and if I were a betting man, I would lay down a hefty sum that flat out says there will be. March is a month that, in these parts, will usually feature some below-zero days, some big snowfall days, some rainy days and some sunshine-filled days that reach 70 degrees; sometimes, all in the span of a week.

The way I look at it, any nice day we get is one less day of winter. Much the same can be said for April. It could be cold rain, it could be a foot of snow, on less common days it could be below zero and yes, once in a while, it could hit 80 in April. Again, sometimes, all in the same week.

I do know that even a day or two of nice weather in March gets me thinking of things I will do this spring, beginning, hopefully, with some 50-degree days of sunshine on the ice catching bluegills and perch. I should preface that by saying I will fish for perch and bluegills if we can ever get out on a lake before the first of May, given the deep snow and slush that makes lake travel all but impossible these days.

What will truly usher in spring, at least for me, will be the magic day of April 10 that I have circled on my calendar. That is the first day of my Illinois turkey hunt for which I just received my tag in the mail a few days ago. Next to the first day of duck season, turkey season opener is the biggest and best holiday of the year in my book.

But that will be only the start of my post-winter outdoor activities. Getting to work on the 10 flower beds that dot my front lawn and border my house, I already have plenty of eye candy to look at in various unsolicited flower catalogs I get before I can get down to the real business of visiting all my favorite local garden centers and plant nurseries.

It seems that no matter how crowded my flower beds get, I always seem to be able to find room for “just one more” clump of a new flower species to plant, even if it means building another bed.

When I’m not looking at catalogs or going over my flower bed “maps” or looking at four decades of planting notes covering the success or lack of it that I’ve had with just about every plant I’ve ever planted, I’m thinking up some new scheme to plant “just a few more” new ones. At least I tell my wife it’s always just a few more, although I long ago gave up believing I’ve ever really been pulling the wool over her eyes.

If I get tired of practicing with my various mouth, slate and box turkey calls, something my lovely wife simply loves hearing (uh huh) or I get tired of looking at beautiful pictures of flowering plants, my thoughts usually turn to camping.

Since the first time I took my wife on a trip to Canada, she has been hooked on camping. True, she has always been fairly certain we will be mauled and devoured by various carnivores including bears, wolves, tigers and wolverines during a night in a tent. But somehow, she has always managed to survive such nights of terror especially when the night air is filled with the sounds of loons yodeling, whippoorwills “whippoorwill-ing” and owls hooting.

For the past two summers, she finally has been able to sleep peacefully through a night of camping, mainly because we jointly decided that sleeping in comfortable beds in a pop-up, hard-sided A-frame camper is much better than having rocks dig into one’s back through thin foam pads and even thinner sleeping bags.

With visions of campfires, fresh-caught fish in a frying pan and a silvery slice of moon to bid us good night, we have been thinking seriously about where and when we might camp this spring and summer.

One weekend in August has already been booked at Copper Falls State Park, where we will join our daughter and son-in-law for an annual get-together. We have visited Copper Falls many times over the years, but as a waterfall fanatic, I never tire of walking the riverbanks to watch water cascading over Copper Falls and nearby Brownstone Falls.

From there it is not a long drive to visit high and narrow Morgan Falls and to take a steep hike to the top of St. Peter’s Dome. It also will be handy to stop at the Potato River Falls on the way back, where not only are the falls beautiful to see, but where trout can be found for the frypan.

Before we even get to that camping date, there will be a three- or four-day solo trip for me to camp near Drummond while fishing the Namekagon, White and Marengo rivers, with maybe the mighty Bois Brule River thrown in to boot.

Also, we have serious plans for a five-day trip together to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northern Minnesota. There we will camp, catch fish and in either late July or early August, pick a bushel or so of wild blueberries. I kid you not about the bushel. My son, who this summer will be in the midst of an 11-month expense-paid trip to San Antonio, Texas, for biomedical training courtesy of his army unit, has drawn detailed maps for me of the spots where he annually picks 25 gallons, not quarts, or more, of blueberries every summer.

Anyway, until the start of those spring and summer months to come, I’ll just sit back, and look at my flower, fishing, and camping books, and dream of the good days ahead. 

It’s good to be a retired old geezer.